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AU concerned with Malawi’s torture laws

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The African Union is concerned that Malawi has not criminalised torture under its Penal Code and has since asked government to enact a specific law to define and prohibit the practice in accordance with international provisions.

One cited provision is the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Commission’s Robben Island Guidelines (RIGs). This is contained in the recently issued African Commission’s concluding observations and recommendations for Malawi on its Initial and Combined Periodic Report on the implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

The observation comes following a presentation by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu at the 57th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Gambia that took place between 4 and 18 November last year.

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Chief State Advocate, in the Human Rights Unit in the Ministry of Justice Pacharo Kayira said they will soon convene a meeting of the Charter Task Force to discuss the observations.

“The observations will be incorporated into the Human Rights Action Plan. Also note that our next report is due in April 2017, and preparations will commence during second quarter of this year,” he said.

The recommendations also want Malawi Government to initiate programmes for training of all its law enforcement agents on the RIGs in line with the UN Convention against Torture (CAT) which Malawi is yet to domesticate and ratify. Malawi has also been told to expedite the processes for the ratification of outstanding regional and international human rights instruments, so as to enhance the framework for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in Malawi which have been listed in the report.

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“Adopt an official moratorium on the death penalty as a step towards the definitive abolition of the death penalty,” says the AU report which also calls on the country to expedite the conclusion of re-sentencing hearings for those individuals, who previously received automatic death sentences in light of the2007 Kafantayeni decision.

The AU report also calls on Malawi to provide in its next report, detailed statistics on cases of extra-judicial killings, as well as of measures taken by the State to investigate such cases and ensure the trial and punishment of perpetrators.

“Expedite the effective establishment and operationalisation of the Independent Police Complaints Commission entitled to investigate complaints of brutality, deaths or

misconduct at the hands of the police,” says the report. In the same breath AU also wants Malawi to adopt other comprehensive and adequate measures to effectively combat torture and excessive use of force by police officers and other State agents.

Reacting tothe observations and recommendations, Makhumbo Munthali, who is the Advocacy Coordinator for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) said as members of the civil society, they welcome the African Commission’s concluding observations and recommendations for Malawi.

“These concluding observations and recommendations provide a fair assessment and reflection of Malawi’s implementation of the African Charter and the Protocol of the African Charter…” said Munthali who is one of the members representing civil society who constituted the Malawi Delegation to Gambia. He also observed that the report highlights the positives and challenges or concerns, and takes a step further in challenging government to take certain measures to address the existing gaps in as far as Malawi’s commitment to implementation of the African Charter and Maputo protocol is concerned.

“We cannot agree more with the African Commission’s concerns over inordinate delay in the enactment of the access to information laws and the continued existence of laws limiting freedom of expression such as criminal defamation,” observed Munthali. Kayira said the 58th session of the Commission where they will present the report that will address the recommendations and observations will be held in Banjul, The Gambia in April 2017.

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